The master (of last place)

My mouth went dry, but a chugged lemonade soon drenched my thirst. I had a blast, and finished last. Again. The best five minutes (and six seconds) of the year came and went in a flash Friday night with another running of the Montana Men’s Masters Mile. It’s been called the “MMMM” in the past, though that’s been shortened to simply “M4.” And thanks to folks like coach Dale Kennedy, who doesn’t mind that we interrupt his track meets at Montana State University, a dozen or so runners from different points in the state can feel special for a few fleeting minutes each February. To pound those boards at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse … to hear the National Anthem sung just before we set off … to take in those cheers. It’s enough to bring us back year after year. Not just for the race. The post race is just as enjoyable. And it lasts longer. John Zombro may not be able to run any longer, but the same can’t be said for his mouth. I’m not sure he ever ate his burrito at 18 Miles to the Border, though no one was complaining: His legs may be shut down, but his sense of humor keeps right on chugging. The after-race party is where everyone is back in street clothes, enjoying the din of another M4 down the tubes. Speaking of which, this is where the lemonade comes in. Even though I ran 12 seconds faster than my M4 debut three years ago, I still finished last. Correction, dead last. For the third time in four years. I was last in 2007 and ’09, and was again Friday night. There was some consolation, however. The guys tried to make me feel good by saying that my time, 5:06, is a fast last-place time. And I did run a second faster than last year, which means that if I continue my incremental improvement, I’ll be a sub-five miler in … 2017. Still, Friday night was a gas. I never saw Peter Dan Sullivan during the race, but I enjoyed his humbleness and easy laugh at 18 Miles. (We like to talk shite over e-mail, but runners usually don’t have big egos. Just another reason to like the sport.) And if Chad Coley is 35, then I’m Steve Prefontaine. Chad could have been wearing an MSU singlet and nobody would bat an eye. So, yes, Kyle Strode strode past me and I couldn’t catch “Broken Toe” Bruner or “Butte Badass” Braun, but that’s life. It was still cool to stick around and watch MSU’s Heather Haug, with that same kick she displayed at Park High, and Patrick Casey (a future M4-er for sure) run strong in their own mile races. Then it was off to 18 Miles. Time to take my medicine. Tradition says the last-place finisher must chug a wine cooler or some reasonable facsimile. It took me two gulps (get it in a can next time, Zombro, and I’ll shotgun it), but that Mike’s Hard Lemonade eventually made its way down to my burrito-filled belly. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrppp! For a guy who rarely drinks, my head began to spin soon after I sat down. It turned into quite a buzz. But it was nothing compared to the rush I enjoyed for a few strides earlier in the evening. Make mine mango-flavored next year.


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February 2010
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